New soybean foam product could boost parish farmers

Published 12:18 am Monday, July 23, 2007

VIDALIA — Soybean products and research is on the rise, and a soybean-based foam developed by the Ford Motor Company may lead to a higher demand for local soybeans.

The development will have a positive impact on Concordia Parish soybean farmers by adding a new market for their products, said Ford Public Affairs Consultant Robert Coon.

The new foam, announced earlier this month, was developed in conjunction with Lear Corp. and was funded in part by the United Soybean Board.

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The development calls for an 800 percent increase in the use of soybeans for the production of the foam.

The foam will be used primarily for vehicle seat cushions, backs, armrests and head restraints.

Previously, a five percent blend of soybeans was used in the manufacture of the foam, but the new development ups that blend to 40 percent.

Debra Mielewski, technical leader for Ford’s Materials Research and Advanced Engineering Department, said in a press release the company decided to use soy products because they’re a renewable.

“Using a soy-based foam gives us the opportunity to conserve natural resources and reduce our environmental footprint,” she said.

Locally, soybeans are also being used in environmentally friendly ways.

Two companies, Delta Biofuels and U.S. Sustainable Energy Corp. are using soybeans and soybean oil to develop biofuels — that is, non-petroleum fuels derived from organic matter.

Delta Biofuels started production of fuel in mid-June, and USSEC plans to have its facility fully operating by next June.

Aside from being environmentally friendly, using biofuels helps reduce petroleum dependency, USSEC Chief Executive Officer John Rivera said in a press release.

“We believe we have come up with a solution to stop the importation of foreign diesel fuels,” he said.

Nearly half of American soybean farmers surveyed said they use soybean-based bio-diesel themselves, according to the United Soybean Board.